It still hurts. Having reached the Euro 2020 final and outplayed the Italians at a rocking Wembley stadium, England’s men once again fell short on penalty kicks - just like they did in 1990 and 1996.
But now, much of that pain has been soothed thanks to the England women’s football team.
Sure, the men came close - but the women displayed bags of grit and determination to finish the job by winning the country its first piece of footballing silverware since 1966.
It has taken 56 years for England to hold aloft a trophy, not for the want of trying. Indeed the men’s team deserve credit for making it to the World Cup semifinal in 2018. Coach Gareth Southgate is clearly doing something right behind the scenes with his talented squad and there is a feeling they could go all the way at the Qatar World Cup which kicks off in November. But he would be foolish if he does not pick the brains of Sarina Wiegman, the brilliant coach of the women’s team.
She has become the first manager to win back-to-back women’s Euros with two different nations having previously taken the Netherlands to glory. She has showed brilliant tactical acumen from the touchline during the tournament to deliver England’s women their first major trophy. Her timely substitutions have frequently proved successful throughout the tournament along with her ability to spot and nullify danger from the opposition via a quick change of shape. She has been simply amazing. Although she is ineligible to receive honours from the Queen due to her Dutch nationality, there is talk of her getting another honourary award and boy does she deserve it. Southgate might even be tempted to add her to his backroom staff!
It is third time lucky for the team having suffered defeat at Euro finals in 1984 and 2009. The Lionesses lost on penalties to Sweden 38 years ago and then 6-2 against the Germans but they got their revenge last night over their old enemy. Goals from Manchester United’s Ella Toone and Manchester City’s Chloe Kelly secured Wiegman’s side a deserved victory against the eight-time European champions in front of a record crowd of 87,192. The attendance beat the highest total recorded in either the men’s or women’s editions of the tournament. That is incredible.
Unified the country
The women have galvanized the nation. The country - which has been divided due to all manner of issues such as Brexit, the failing economy, the growing number of hate crimes and perhaps most pertinent of all the damage caused by the pandemic – has become one. They have unified the land with their superb performances, team spirit and sportsmanship. School playgrounds have been filled with girls playing football with the boys – and beating them.
Make no bones about it – this is a monumental moment in English football history and who knows when those scenes at full time of jubilation in the stands and the outpouring of emotion by the players on the pitch will be repeated. The hope is it will be very soon. If Southgate and co are celebrating in Qatar in four months time it will be thanks to the women who have inspired the nation.
There’s a good feeling back in England - the boys had better not ruin it...